Missouri tornado victim Annistyn Rackley, 9, posed with favorite doll in final photo
A nine-year-old girl was seen holding on to her favorite doll in the heartbreaking final photo that her mother took just before she died in one of the several deadly tornadoes that hit the Midwest.
Annistyn Rackley died after the twister destroyed her parents' new home near Caruthersville, southeast Missouri on Friday, December 10. According to a report by the Associated Press, the third-grader and her siblings were hiding in a windowless bathroom before the storms hit, when their mother Meghan sent their “Aunt Sandy” a photo of the three smiling kids in and next to the bathtub to show they were safe. But moments after the photo was taken, a tornado carried the family members dozens of yards through the air and into a field, where first responders found them in the mud.
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The report noted how Annistyn succumbed to her injuries while the rest of her family barely managed to survive. Meghan, the mother, sustained broken bones, a brain injury, as well as a large cut. The father, Trey Rackley, 37, suffered cuts and bruises, while their middle child Ava is expected to undergo surgery for a broken vertebrae. Sandra Hooker or "Aunt Sandy," who is the sister of Meghan's grandma, remembered little Annistyn as a "special angel" who was full of life despite suffering from a rare liver disorder. “Their house is splintered," Hooker told AP. "There’s debris-strewn forever out in the field, and so they were sucked up into the tornado.”
Doesn’t get any more dangerous than this deadly nighttime tornado near Caruthersville, Missouri. Tornado likely peaked at EF4/EF5 strength. #ARwx #MOwx pic.twitter.com/AWa0OggrZk— US StormWatch (@US_Stormwatch) December 11, 2021
Hooker said it had been less than a week since Trey and Meghan moved into their new home that was destroyed by the tornado. She recounted how she and Annistyn grew close over the past four years. The youngster attended the same elementary school where her mother and Hooker teach. When Annistyn was 2 months old, her parents were told she had a rare liver condition — one due to which the bile ducts don't develop properly, thereby reducing the strength of the body's immune system. Hooker said she bonded with the child during doctor's visits and blood draws and remembered how the girl like to draw with chalk on the cement of her carport.
Despite suffering from an innate disorder, Annistyn was "full of energy and delighted in donning outfits and makeup for cheer competitions and learning new dances from TikTok." She also did "cartwheels and splits" in front of Hooker. “I would just gasp because she could do the splits all the time, and she would just laugh,” the devastated aunt reminisced. “She loved dancing.”
Following a prayer vigil on Sunday, searchers scoured the field near the Rackley's house and found the doll that Annistyn was holding in the tragic photo. According to Hooker, it was Annistyn's favorite and she called it Baby MawMaw. “They brought Baby MawMaw to me, and I’m cleaning her up so that Ava can have Baby MawMaw,” Hooker told AP.
The surge of tornadoes that ripped through several states, including Kentucky, Illinois, and Arkansas, left up to 100 people dead and over 60,000 without power or electricity. Kentucky officials said the destruction they had witnessed was "some of the worst tornado damage that we've seen in a long time." Governor Andy Beshear said, "This is likely to be the most severe tornado outbreak in our state's history," adding, "We believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians and probably end up 70 to 100."